DiCaprio/Abrams Lose Bidding War For Oklahoma True Story – And So Do Clooney/Pitt

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Apparently, $5 million dollars is more valuable than what could possibly be the most coveted actor/director pairing in the industry right now.

The year’s hottest Hollywood bidding war escalated quickly for movie rights to the upcoming non-fiction book “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann (“The Lost City of Z”). With backing from Paramount Pictures, Leonardo DiCaprio and J.J. Abrams pitched themselves as actor/director collaborators who would team with screenwriter Eric Roth (Oscar-winner for Forrest Gump) to bring the Oklahoma-set true story to the screen. Their bid went as high as $2 million, outpacing main competitor George Clooney who wanted to direct (and had experience shooting in Oklahoma with August: Osage County, which he produced) and was reportedly pooling money with buddy Brad Pitt‘s production company Plan B.

Then Imperative Entertainment outbid them all.

With no creative team announced, Houston-based Imperative landed the rights with a $5 million bombshell offer. The only name associated with that company who has any recognizable track record is co-founder Tim Kring; his most notable credit is…NBC’s Heroes.

Set in the 1920s, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a nonfiction book (to be released next spring) that examines the mysterious murders of Native Americans from Oklahoma’s Osage tribe, where oil sat rich beneath their land. The case was turned over to a newly formed federal law enforcement agency known as the Bureau of Investigation, which would become the FBI. The nascent bureau would have to fight systemic corruption to solve the case.

Deadline.com reports that money was writer David Grann’s top priority, which can be the only explanation for why two extremely desirable filmmaking teams were rejected after their protracted efforts to land the property. You have DiCaprio coming off an Oscar win who’s also a fervent advocate for Native American issues and history, Abrams just rebooted the biggest franchise ever with the most successful movie of all time, and Clooney/Pitt each have Oscars sitting on their shelves (not to mention critically-lauded track records) for films they’ve produced. The DiCaprio/Abrams team was made even sweeter with the addition of screenwriter Roth and producing partner Steve Golin; his company Anonymous Content just finished helping steer Spotlight and The Revenant to major Oscar wins.

Given the rich – and passionate – pedigree of both losing bidders, don’t be surprised if Imperative ends up striking a deal with one of the two power teams.

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